Playing Race Driver
Ferrari Driving School Coming to North America
By MICHAEL BETTENCOURT
TORONTO — It’s not just a Ferrari driving school, it’s a Ferrari experience.
That’s how Ferrari is pitching its first factory-backed driving school outside of Italy, located at the Mt. Tremblant race track, or officially Le Circuit de Mt. Tremblant, about 90 miles north of Montreal, Quebec. The school will give participants access to 12 factory-owned Ferrari F430 coupes for 2.5 days and an open race track -- which just may be about as inspiring an automotive opportunity as there is for true tifosi, the rabid fans of the brand that always dominate the crowd at Formula One races.
But Ferrari is promising more than just fast cars on a nice race track, said Marco Mattiacci, Ferrari North America’s vice president of marketing.
“The driver’s school is to really get to know the history, technology and how to learn to drive these amazing products,” said Mattiacci at the 2006 Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto. “The common line throughout the experience is exclusivity.”
The fact that the driving school costs U.S. $8,200 is enough to make it exclusive on its own and doesn’t cover the cost of getting to the Montreal or Mt. Tremblant airport or heliport. Adding to the exclusivity factor is that the school is officially meant for Ferrari owners only, of which there are 18,000 in North America, said Mattiacci. Still, when pressed, Mattiacci conceded there might be a small window of opportunity for non-owners as well, but only those contemplating Ferrari ownership. “We would consider a serious prospect.”
The school will employ ex-Formula One drivers and local racers for instructors, although none have yet been publicly named. Ferrari officials insist the course is not a racing school, but a driving school that is meant to help owners enjoy their vehicle’s considerable sporting capabilities on the street by improving their driving skills on the race track.
Most of the school’s customers are expected to come from the United States, where more than 90 percent of Ferrari’s North American sales are located. So why not locate its first school outside Italy in the United States? That decision came down to providing the best overall Ferrari experience, said company officials.
“There’s a culture of racing and love for Ferrari in Canada,” said Mattiacci. “We have a popular Formula One race in Montreal and I think the market is ready to grow seriously.”
When Ferrari does something like this, they do it right, said Remo Ferri, owner of two Ferrari retailers in Toronto and the largest Ferrari dealer in Canada. “Tremblant has the ambiance you need,” said Ferri, “plus you want to have the proper facilities, at the track and afterward.”